'Human nature may be easy to see through, but it is very hard to understand.' The ageing Catherine Vernon, jilted in her youth, has risen to power in a man's world as head of the family bank. She thinks she sees through everyone and rules over a family of dependents with knowing cynicism. But there are two people in Redborough who resist her. One is Hester, a young relation with a personality as strong as Catherine's, and as determined to find a role for herself. The other is Edward, Catherine's favourite, whom she treats like a son. Conflict between young and old is inevitable, and in its depiction of the complex relationships that develop between the three principal characters, Publishing October 2003 (exact date?) Margaret Oliphant is one of the great Victorian novelists, and this edition establishes her rediscovered importance.
Philip Davis is the author of The Victorians 1830-1880 in the new Oxford English Literary History series.